The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series


My apologies to readers. This stuff is coming in faster than I can retell it. For, retelling it is all I can do, not being on the front lines of this or any significant conflict. Here is a bit of history:

“[A]nother scalp.” Now, that’s a cheeky way of putting it. We’re back to counting coup, are we? All right, if Mr. Saleh and his “two associates” are willing to participate, and it appears they were, then that’s the name of the game. Here is a photo of Mr. Saleh in one of his better moments, that is, alive. Considering the nature of his departure, the most recent photos are likely undecipherable.

Given all of that, who’s next up for (and off of) the ever diminishing list of those who cannot obtain life insurance at any price? Today’s face on the milk carton formerly belonged to Charaffe al Mouadan. The news is from CNN:

(CNN)The U.S.-led coalition killed multiple figures within ISIS senior leadership over the last few weeks, including an operative closely linked to the ringleader of the November attacks in Paris, the spokesman for the coalition said Tuesday.

Col. Steve Warren said 10 senior ISIS leaders operating in both Iraq and Syria, “including several external attack planners,” with designs on attacking western targets, had been killed in airstrikes.

Charaffe al Mouadan, a Syrian-based member of ISIS with a “direct link” to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian-born ringleader of the terror attacks in Paris, was killed in a December 24 airstrike, and was “actively planning additional attacks against the West,” Warren said.

See the screen shot above. The person on the left is Michael Weiss. Along with co-author Hassan Hassan, Weiss earlier this year released his book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, which was recently reviewed here.

The unfortunate on the right is the late Mr. al-Mouadan, whose responsibilities within the organization, now known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, are not immediately clear. We do know that, while Daesh-inspired gunmen were creating mayhem and killing people at the Paris Bataclan nightclub last month, Mr. al-Mouadan’s name was batted about. That may not seem like much to most folks, but in these edgy times it’s enough to get your name stenciled on the warhead of a Hellfire missile.


Along the lines of counting coup, the Obama administration, feeling some heat recently from the loyal opposition, has decided it’s not enough to just walk the walk, they need to talk the talk. To that end, along with the announcement of Mr. al-Mouadan’s vaporization, they also put on display the scalps of nine others brought to heavenly reward this month:

Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said a militant commander named Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in the Dec. 24 strike.

Warren said a total of 10 ISIS leaders have been killed in airstrikes over the past month.

They were killed mainly by drone strikes in Iraq and Syria. He offered few details, but said at least two of those killed were linked to the Paris attacks. He said one was directly tied to those who planned the violence in Paris and was actively planning other assaults against the West. Most appeared to be mid-level leaders.

Warren said that one of the others killed was from Bangladesh but spent time in Britain and was a hacker for ISIS and coordinated anti-surveillance technology.

A Daesh (ISIS) hacker. “[C]oordinated anti-surveillance technology.” That’s what it takes for the government to spend $110,000 of your tax money on a Hellfire launch. This may raise concerns among Mr. al-Mouadan’s former assciates. What is the United States military going to find a budget for once all the Daesh hackers and coordinators of anti-surveillance technology are gone? I’m thinking the jihadist in charge of rounding up women sex slaves it going to be thinking twice about his life decisions. And he’s going to be shopping for life insurance. Were it only available.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m sure I saw this when it came out in 1977, and I have watched it at least twice more on DVD. I will be forgiven for not watching it again as I write this review. It’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written and directed by Steven Speilberg and released by Columbia Pictures. It features Richard DreyfussFrançois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. I’m getting these details from Wikipedia. Images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies.

The opening scene is a blinding sandstorm in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. A team of scientists has been called to the discovery of the infamous Flight 19, five TBF Avenger war planes that disappeared off the east coast of Florida in December 1945. After 32 years they are in like-new condition. Here we see one of the team being hoisted up to peer at the engine to get its serial number.


I was not familiar with the Avenger, but was somewhat familiar with other Grumman aircraft. My thinking is that aircraft design departments go with what works, which is why this reminded me of the S2F.


The title of the movie comes from the UFO culture:

  • Close encounter of the first kind: Visual sightings of an unidentified flying object seemingly less than 500 feet away that show an appreciable angular extension and considerable detail.
  • Close encounter of the second kind: A UFO event in which a physical effect is alleged.
  • Close encounter of the third kind: UFO encounters in which an animated creature is present.

Having established that, the plot evolves.

First there is a close pass by an airliner of a UFO. Nobody wants to file a report. Then, in Muncie, Indiana, power company lineman Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) is seen with his family, said family apparently disintegrating due to Roy’s lack of maturity (obsession with play toys, neglecting the interests of his three children). The area experiences a sever power outage, and Roy is called out in the middle of the night to locate the problem.

Meanwhile,  three-year-old, Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey) is awakened when his toys become animated, and there are signs that aliens from outer space have invaded the home. He runs outside to investigate. Single mother Jillian Guiler (Dillon) chases after him.

Roy encounters a UFO on a lonely stretch of road and gives chase in the company service van. He almost runs over Barry, standing in the middle of the road. Barry’s mother saves him just in time. They all stare in disbelief as UFOs come streaking along the road, feet above the pavement.


UFO researchers discuss the recent events. Momentum builds.


Barry Guiler’s home is again visited by the aliens, and this time his mother is unable to save him. Strangely attracted, he crawls through the doggie door and is taken aboard the space craft.


Meanwhile, Roy has gone off the deep end. Completely obsessed by his encounter with the UFO, he becomes fixed on an image planted in his mind. He carves the mashed potatoes into the form. His fearful wife leaves him, taking the children. He raids the planter beds around his house for soil and other debris and reconstructs in his living room the vision in his head. Then he sees the vision on TV. It’s the Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming, where the government has blocked all access due to a fictitious poison gas scare.


Roy encounters Jillian in the throng strangely attracted to the site, and together they run roadblocks until they come into view of the monument.


Taken into custody by the military, they are ordered to wear gas masks, due to the poison gas. Roy believes it’s all a bluff, and he removes his mask. No poison gas. He and Jillian scale the monument and come into sight of a landing base constructed by the government. Something ominous approaches from the sky.


The alien craft lands. It is huge, and a large door opens on its bottom. The missing Flight 19 crew along with a host of others mysteriously vanished in the past are disgorged.


The aliens emerge, as well, and they pick from those in attendance some they will take aboard when they leave. Barry is one of those emerging from the alien craft, to be united with his mother. Roy is one of those chosen to leave with the aliens. The craft buttons up and departs. And that’s the end of the movie.

Music by John Williams is outstanding. It’s a gripping plot by Spielberg, but it expands on the definition of absurdity. I need to get started now, because there is a lot to cover.

1. Aliens come from light years away and explore the Earth. What do they do? They disappear a flight of Navy torpedo bombers and keep the crew and the planes for 32 years before returning them intact to Earth. And the logic behind this is?

2. Multiple airline pilots plus an air control center observe a UFO buzzing an airliner. And all decline to file a UFO report? Isn’t that what UFO reports are supposed to be for? When you observe an unidentified flying object that possibly has endangered an airliner, isn’t there an obligation to file a report?

3. Aliens want to make their presence known at a toddler’s home. How do they do it? They make his toys come to life and rattle things in the house. They break into the refrigerator and leave a mess. These are the same beings that can travel light years across space?

4. This is an advanced civilization with technology far beyond what is capable on Earth, and they need to communicate with us by means of a five-note tune. Especially since the aliens are able to communicate to us the latitude and longitude (numerically) of the designated landing point.-104° 44′ 30″ closely approximates the longitude of Devil’s tower in Wyoming (-104° 42′ 55.8″). 40°  36′ 10″ is not so much the latitude (44° 35′ 24″).

5. A reporter at a news conference on UFO sightings and such, “I’ve been in the news business for a long time, and our cameras have never been able to take a picture of a plane crash as it happened, or an automobile accident and get it on the six-o’clock news.” Where was this reporter in 1952 when this was taken?

Popperfoto,The Book, Volume 1,Page: 98, Picture: 5, John Derry's crash, as his D,H,plane hits the ground after breaking the sound barrier in flight, Farnborough air display, 1952 (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Popperfoto,The Book, Volume 1,Page: 98, Picture: 5, John Derry’s crash, as his D,H,plane hits the ground after breaking the sound barrier in flight, Farnborough air display, 1952 (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Effects are fab, but not up to 2001. All actors turned in sterling performances. The little kid came close to stealing the show, but he never rolled this performance into a career.

Don’t drop the soap.

One of a continuing series


I should have been so lucky. Growing up I quickly learned that shit flows downhill, and that if any shit got dished I was going to be the one to get the first serving. We now know there are others less encumbered:

In December 2013, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd sentenced [Ethan] Couch to therapy at a long-term, in-patient facility, after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from “affluenza” and needed rehabilitation instead of prison. His sentence set off what the New York Times called “an emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond the North Texas suburbs”.

What Judge Boyd said, essentially, was that young Ethan was disadvantaged. He did not have the advantage I had growing up. He was denied being told that shit flows downhill, and as a result he was unaware there were consequences for personal actions. Poor kid.

Ethan’s ten-year probation for the crime of killing four people in a drunk-driving collision came to an abrupt end on 11 December, at which time Ethan, along with his mother Tonya Couch, disappeared from the view of the parole board. Gone, as well, were their passports.

The upshot of this unscheduled disappearance is that Ethan is now in violation of his probation and subject to immediate incarceration, with the possibility of having to serve the entire time of his probated sentence in a Texas facility. Tonya Couch, complicit in Ethan’s evasion of the law, now becomes a criminal in her own right, soon to become aware that shit does flow downhill.

Surprise! Unless your name is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, you need to know that you can run, but you can’t hide. Mexican police yesterday announced they had latched on to Ma Barker and her gang of one in the resort town of  Puerto Vallarta. People in this country may not realize it, but Mexico does have a problem with illegal aliens, and the Couch gang seems to be emblematic of these. We can expect to see the criminal pair back in a Texas court before the years is out:

Prosecutors had requested that Couch be sentenced to 20 years behind bars. The judge’s decision to give him probation instead of jail time was controversial at the time, and more so after the recent video appeared to show the teen playing a drinking game at a party.

District Attorney Sharen Wilson has said it “certainly looks like him” in the video, but added that without further investigation, the video alone did not prove he violated his probation.

But leaving the county and not meeting his probation officer are violations, she said.

“The video” in question is one that may or may not show Ethan Couch in violation of his probation by attending a drinking party. That matter is now moot. The offense of evading probation and leaving the country will hopefully dish up some real jail time, and not for just a few months. I remind Ethan Couch about shit flowing downhill, and I also caution him to not drop the soap.

Don’t drop the soap.

One of a continuing series


Have I ever mentioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? I think I have:

So, what does this have to do with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? I’m glad you asked:

In an appearance at Chatham House, the British international affairs think tank in London, Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) declined to answer whether or not he believes in the scientific theory of evolution.

According to Talking Points Memo, the Tea Party favorite and Koch Brothers beneficiaryreplied, “I’m going to punt on that one.”

Keep this just between you and me, but my opinion is the Koch Brothers aren’t getting their money’s worth. Or possibly they are getting exactly what they are paying for.

Penny wise and pound foolish, the brothers earlier this year doubled their bet and covered it with some insurance:

Conservatives are declaring that the “witch hunt” against Governor Scott Walker is over because the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the special prosecutor to stop the John Doe investigation into Walker’s alleged illegal coordinated with dark money groups during his recall elections in 2011 and 2012.

Conservative factions supporting Walker contend no illegal activity was involved in the raising and use of money to thwart Walker’s recall. The activity in question was not the raising of money to defeat the recall, but in the coordination between the campaign managed by Walker and the organization raising the money.

As I understand the relevant law, a candidate, Walker in this case, can manage an organization to raise campaign money. This activity is well regulated by federal and state law, particularly regarding how the money is spent. My presumption is this is to ensure that money raised for political campaigns does not get misused and applied to other endeavors, including padding the pockets of candidates and their associates. Money raised by separate groups, groups not affiliated with the candidate, are not covered by these laws, and they can raise what money they want and do what they want with the money. To ensure these private groups are independent of the candidate, the law has specific requirements banning all sorts of communication and coordination between the candidate and the private groups. In this case the alleged crime is unlawful coordination between Walker and the private group or groups.

The recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling is critical:

Schmitz, who spent 30 years in the Wisconsin U.S. attorney’s office, was appointed by a judge in August 2013 as a special prosecutor to lead the five-county investigation.

“The conduct under investigation clearly violates Wisconsin law and the subpoenas do not infringe on constitutionally protected speech or activity,” he argued.

Schmitz seems to have focused in on R.J. Johnson in their investigation, who is linked with outside groups and played an official, paid role on Walker’s campaign. One of the emails obtained via subpoena was from Walker to Rove, the GOP rainmaker. The full May 4, 2011, message is not being made public but the prosecutor quotes from it.

“Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin,” the governor wrote Rove. “We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities.)”

This refers not to Walker’s own recall, but the union-led effort to remove state senators who had backed Walker’s controversial budget to limit the collective bargaining power of public employees. Several big outside groups spent heavily to protect the Republicans.

The Wall Street Journal provides details of the ruling:

As WSJ’s Patrick O’Connor reports, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that neither Mr. Walker’s political operation nor his allies violated campaign-finance laws in the run-up to the 2012 recall vote, a bitter contest that put the Wisconsin governor on the national map.

The court, in a 4-2 decision, ordered prosecutors in the case to “cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.”

Through all of this, nothing seems to say Walker did not break the law. What the court has decided is that the law is unconstitutional:

In its opinion released early Thursday, the majority said a state law outlawing such coordination was “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague under the First Amendment.”

Campaign finance advocates predicted the ruling would relegate most Wisconsin citizens to the sidelines in future elections with anonymous, deep-pocketed donors taking over. The critics also began discussing an appeal to federal courts.

Not clear from all of this is whether the governor believes in biological evolution. The people of Wisconsin seem to have been left with the government they paid for. In the mean time, the Koch brothers saw an earlier bet swept off the table as Walker withdrew from the presidential campaign earlier this year.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


Below is a problem from one of the physics textbooks I reviewed two years ago.

  1. A hair dryer and a curling iron have resistances of 15 Ω and 25 Ω, respectively, and are connected in parallel. They are connected to a 60 V battery. Calculate the:
    1. current through the circuit.
    2. power used by the hair dryer.
    3. power used by the curling iron.

I insisted the problem be reworded. What’s wrong with this problem?

Submit your answer as a comment below. I will provide the answer by Friday if nobody has submitted a correct answer by then.


Mike has hit upon the obvious answer. This problem does not make sense. You do not run a hair dryer off a battery. A hair dryer has an AC motor, and requires an AC power source. The authors of this book are not practical physicists or engineers.

This recalls an issue encountered by physicist Richard Feynman. He took on the job of reviewing physics books for California 50 or 60 years ago. One problem assigned to students in a book went like this:

There are three stars. One has a surface temperature of 5000, another 6000, and another 7000 (Kelvin). What is the sum of the temperatures?

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

Here’s another dark one. It’s The Seventh Victim from 1943. It stars Kim Hunter as Mary Gibson. It’s from RKO Radio Pictures and directed by Mark Robson.

Mary Gibson’s stay at Highcliff’s boarding school comes to an abrupt end one day with the announcement that her sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), has quit paying her tuition and has ceased all communication. Mary decides to go to New York to find her sister.


Mary’s first stop is her sister’s perfume company. There she meets the plant manager, Ester Redi (Mary Newton), who announces she is the new owner.


Additional searching turns up a vacant room being rented for Jacqueline by lawyer Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), who turns out to be Jacqueline’s secret husband. The room contains only a chair and a hangman’s noose dangling from the ceiling. Encouraged to visit the Missing Persons Bureau, Mary runs into opportunistic private detective Irving August (Lou Lubin). Together the two break into the perfume factory where the detective is encouraged to check out a locked room he was previously unable to penetrate under guise as an inspector. He is murdered and dies at Mary’s feet. Mary escapes on the subway, only to witness two phony drunks transporting the dead detective’s body.


The plot also involves failed poet Jason Hoag (Erford Gage), and a psychiatrist Louis Judd (Tom Conway). It eventually becomes known that Jacqueline and Judd are involved in a satanist cult. Judd leads Mary to where he supposes Jacqueline is living, and Mary comes face to face with her sister. Her sister abruptly signals for silence and disappears. The hunt for Jacqueline resumes.


We eventually learn that the cult wants Jacqueline dead, since she has come to endanger the cult with exposure. Also, she is the person who killed the detective. Cult members capture Jacqueline and urge her to drink poison. If she will not commit suicide, they will eventually resort to direct means.


Jacqueline doesn’t drink the poison, and she eludes an assassin on the darkened streets, making her way back to Mary’s apartment, where she ultimately hangs herself. And that’s the end of the movie.

Images are from Turner Classic Movies and details are from Wikipedia and IMDb.

This is supposed to be a story with a message: “death is good.” What it turns out to be is a movie based on a convoluted plot, much of which said plot has been left on the cutting room floor to fit into a 71-minute run time. The result is a sequence of jarring episodes stitched together with critical detail omitted. The good news is that in the end it appears that Mary and Gregory Ward declare their love for each other.

This was Kim Hunter’s first film.

It was the best of times, it was the end of times.

One of a continuing series


Bad news haunts our dreams. As much as we dread the coming of the night, the dawn of each new day brings promise of unfathomed disaster. These are fearful times. Our world teeters on the edge of catastrophe. Humanity gropes for answers, which are freely offered:

The cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have all the trappings of Armageddon, but there’s no way to know whether the end times are upon us, evangelist Franklin Graham tells Newsmax. His advice in the wake of the tragedy: Help your fellow man as much as you can, and always be prepared to meet your maker.

“What are the signs of [Christ’s] second coming? War and famine and earthquakes … escalating like labor pains,” says Graham, founder of The Samaritan’s Purse charity. “Maybe this is it, I don’t know. We should pray and be vigilant. The Bible teaches us Jesus is going to return someday. Many of us we believe that day is sooner rather than later.”

“Whether the end is in five years, 10 years, 100 years or 1,000 years, we need to be ready to stand before God,” Graham says in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.

Readers, that is wonderful news. It is immensely reassuring to learn the end may not come tomorrow, which it has not in fact. Reverend Graham’s message is from nearly five years ago, with no end in sight. I should add that Franklin Graham’s dire warning came in conjunction with the announcement his charity was forwarding 90 tons of relief supplies to the stricken region.

According to the CNN Belief Blog article that referenced this, Graham “is paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew.”

Matthew 24 King James Version (KJV)

24 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Plus a bunch of other really bad stuff.

You can forget about the “10 years, 100 years or 1,000 years” business from five years ago. That was then. This is now. The latest from Reverend Graham is less encouraging:

Oct 27, 2015 05:10 PM EDT

The increasing number of natural disasters and global tragedies currently affecting our world, the Rev. Franklin Graham is warning that the second coming of Jesus Christ is definitely close at hand.

In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday, Graham, who is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, identified two specific events in revealing why he believes we are living in the end days: The earthquake that struck Afghanistan and southern Asia on Monday, and the car accident that occurred during the Oklahoma State parade last Saturday.

“A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Afghanistan and southern Asia today and authorities say the number of casualties has already exceeded 200,” Graham wrote. “Pray for those suffering in the terrible aftermath and for those trying to provide rescue, relief, and medical care.”

He added, “This is a very difficult and dangerous part of the world. We know from God’s Word that earthquakes, famines, and wars will increase as the day of the Lord’s return draws nearer.”

In an earlier post, Graham urged prayers for the victims of the car accident at the Oklahoma State parade over the weekend. According to a report from Fox News, a 25-year-old woman crashed into the crowd, causing the death of four individuals, including a two-year-old boy.

Not included in the above is that somebody dinged my car in the parking lot earlier this year.

Depressing as this may be, I take comfort from one thing. People are no longer blaming me.

Short of blaming me, where else can we lay off this mess of human calamity? Others besides the Reverend Graham flash their authority and provide an explanation:

Q: Can you address something we hear many times, which is “Why would God allow natural disasters?”

Lutzer: One thing we have to remember is that the world is fallen. The Bible says that when man fell into sin, all of nature was cursed. In other words, it was impossible for a sinful man to live in a perfect environment of paradise, so all of nature is cursed.

But having said that, it doesn’t mean that God has a hands-off policy when it comes to natural disasters. Many people want to protect God from the clear teaching of the Bible, which shows He is involved in natural disasters. It is not that God causes them, but the very fact that He could prevent them shows that we need to face squarely the fact that natural disasters happen within God’s providence.

Let me give you a few examples. During the time of the plagues in Egypt, clearly God sent those plagues. Then you have the time of Noah; the flood obviously was sent by God. It says regarding Jonah, God hurled a storm into the sea. We must see God in natural disasters. The question, of course, is why does he allow them and what is there to be learned.

Q: What kinds of lessons can we learn from natural disasters?

Dr. Lutzer: Natural disasters are a megaphone from God and they teach us various lessons. First of all, natural disasters show us the uncertainty of life. Thousands of people wake up in the morning not knowing what is going to happen that day, such as the terrible devastation in Haiti and elsewhere. There was a couple that left California because they were afraid of earthquakes. Then when they came to Missouri, they were killed in a tornado. We can’t get away from the reality that life is very, very short and it’s possible for us to delude ourselves.

When we look at the news and see these disasters, it’s like a preview of the natural disasters that will someday come upon the earth. When you look at the second coming of Christ, you find many different natural disasters connected with it.

That was Pastor Erwin Lutzer of Chicago’s Moody Church. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but the Reverend Lutzer has a knack for sorting things out. Here’s a guy not reduced to throwing up his hands and shouting “Shit happens.”


Right Wing Watch tracks the wisdom of such lights as Erwin Lutzer and End Times citizen reporter Rick Wiles. On 13 February of this year Brian Tashman reported on the Reverend Lutzer’s comments. From the audio clip:

For now, the far left and the jihadists have the same goal, namely the destruction of Christianity in America. They share that goal, and they also share the goal of destroying capitalism. So because of that you have the far left and the jihadists in cahoots. That’s why the far left will overlook human rights abuses, Islam’s treatment of women, etc. They’ll overlook all that, but they’ll attack Christianity.

Right Wing Watch summarized further:

Lutzer later explained that Obamacare is helping too many people gain health coverage, and as a result the “administration is encouraging Islamic doctors from all over the world to come to the United States.”

Since Obamacare is pushing doctors out of the practice and abortion rights are slowing population growth, Lutzer said, the U.S. now has “huge immigrant populations from the Muslim countries.”

Like all patriotic Americans, I am deeply distressed to learn that too many people are getting health care in this country. That is not what I had in mind when I voted for Barack Obama, twice.

Erwin Lutzer has elaborated on his thoughts in An Act of God, with a forward by Franklin Graham. I have other projects in the works, so I won’t be reviewing the book any time soon.


Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

Two women meet in Heaven

1st Woman: Hi, Wanda!

2nd Woman: Hi, Silvia! How did you die?

1st Woman: I froze to death.

2nd Woman: How horrible!

1st Woman: It wasn’t so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold, I began to get warm and sleepy and finally died a peaceful death. What about you?

2nd Woman: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating, so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead, I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.

1st Woman: So, what happened?

2nd Woman: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking. I ran up into the attic and searched and down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all the beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere, and finally I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with a heart attack and died.

1st Woman: Too bad you didn’t look in the freezer—we’d both still be alive.

Terror Plot


Fourteen years ago the United States took a drubbing from the Legion of the Darkness, otherwise known as al-Qaeda. I was impressed at the time that President Bush responded forcefully and appropriately. Rapidly the thinking world aligned with us in this match against religious conservatism. We had the world with us, and we were going to win.

A few days later things started to unravel:

As Europeans wait to see how the United States is planning to retaliate for last week’s attacks on Washington and New York, there is growing anxiety here about the tone of American war rhetoric.

President Bush’s reference to a “crusade” against terrorism, which passed almost unnoticed by Americans, rang alarm bells in Europe. It raised fears that the terrorist attacks could spark a ‘clash of civilizations’ between Christians and Muslims, sowing fresh winds of hatred and mistrust.

Yes, despite what some people in the upper levels of government may think, there is a difference between killing people and winning a war. Events unfolded much as could be expected. The total lack of clue translated into misstep following upon misstep, and, despite being re-elected, Bush finished up his stint, leaving behind thousands of dead American soldiers, $800 billion spent, and the initial flood of goodwill just about dried up.

Then another president took over, and the cycle started over again. The new administration, hopefully learning from prior mistakes, vowed not to repeat them, making instead new ones. And the new president won election for a second term.

Which brings us to the current election cycle, and lots of mouthing from both sides. A host of opposition candidates, challenging Cox’s army in number, is weighing in on the current state of the debacle, especially as this year the murderous squads have started to strike in the United States (and France). What many of these candidates are saying seems based more on political strike effect than on fact. Namely, Daesh (ISIS cool) bred off Bush’s failed vision. Daesh now is Obama’s intransigence come home to roost. Does anybody really know what they are talking about? I looked for answers.

One voice keeps coming through with clarity. I see him pop up regularly on CNN. He’s Michael Weiss:

Michael Weiss is a columnist for Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, and NOW Lebanon. He is also a fellow at the Institute of Modern Russia where he is the editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, an online news and translation journal covering Russian foreign policy and the ongoing war in Ukraine. He has covered the Syria uprising since its inception in 2011 and reported from the front-lines of Aleppo in 2012 for Foreign Affairs magazine.

Explaining the roots, the motivation, the methods of jihadist terrorism, Weiss’s tone is even and nonjudgmental. While he lays the origins of Daesh at the feet of Bush’s missteps in Iraq, he does not go light on the Obama administration as it fumbles the ball critically. When introduced, Weiss is typically listed as co-author of a book. That book is ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. The other author is Hassan Hassan:

Hassan Hassan is Associate Fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, a NYT and Washington Post bestseller. He is a columnist, and former deputy comment editor, for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. He focuses on Syria, Iraq and the Gulf States. He also follows Salafist, jihadist and Islamist groups in the MENA region. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, among others. He received an MA in International Relations from the University of Nottingham in the UK

What sets these two apart from candidates making shrill talk for your attention is their close involvement. They have been on the case for years, gone to the battle zones, and talked to the people—terrorists, fighters, soldiers, victims. In the current swirl around this topic, it will be worth while to mine from their findings.

I purchased the Kindle edition and read it over the past few days. It’s supposed to take five hours to read, but I kept marking notes and looking up reference. I early blew my five-hour budget. What I will do here is present a few of my take-aways and link them back to references from the book. The reader should leave room for any amount of error on the authors’ part, in which case the reader needs to have a better reference. I will start.

Yes, a typical Daesh fighter is at base a thug of the worst sort. One such was Abdelaziz Kuwan, an edgy 16-year-old from Bahrain. After cajoling his mother into returning his passport to him he went to Syria and drank the Daesh Kool-Aid. He rose through the ranks and collected the brutish rewards:

In ISIS, Abdelaziz discovered new things about himself. He learned that he was violent, brutal, and determined. He beheaded enemies. He kept a Yazidi girl in his house as a sabiyya, or sex slave. She was his prize for his participation in battles against the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces and other Kurdish militias in Sinjar, Iraq, near the Syrian border. According to ISIS’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, one-fifth of the sex slaves taken from Sinjar was distributed to ISIS’s central leadership to do with as it so chose; the remainder was divided amongst the rank and file, like Abdelaziz, as the spoils of war.

Abdelaziz showed us a picture of his sabiyya. She was in her late teens. She “belonged” to Abdelaziz for about a month before she was handed off to other ISIS commanders.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror . Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

After three years a Syrian sniper ended his life.

The birth of Daesh can be traced through a former Jordanian street criminal named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The recent split between al-Qaeda and ISIS was inevitable ever since al-Zarqawi and bin Laden first laid eyes on each other in Afghanistan in 1999. Allied they helped tear Iraq apart, inspired Shia counteratrocities, and took a bloody toll in American and allied lives. It is this history that ties together the past decade of conflict with the agendas of regimes in Iran and Syria, and without which we cannot truly understand ISIS today. Although it’s impossible to determine which side in the jihadist argument will ultimately win out, or even if there will be a winner, the fact that al-Qaeda has for the past year been in a state of fratricidal conflict with its former subsidiary will surely determine how the West continues to fight both.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror . Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

As the Bush administration began to beat the drums for invading Iraq, al-Zarqawi and bin Laden saw opportunity looming. Al-Qaeda and other operatives began to infiltrate Saddam’s regime and were already on the spot when the occupation began to unravel. The role of Paul Bremer, the man President Bush picked to run the occupation, was, while not crucial, critical.

[Colonel Derek] Harvey estimated that between sixty-five and ninety-five thousand members of Saddam’s other praetorian division, the Special Republican Guard, the Mukhabarat (a catchall term encompassing Iraq’s intelligence directorates), the Fedayeen Saddam, and state-subsidized militiamen were all rendered unemployed with the stroke of a pen after Paul Bremer, the Bush-appointed head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), chose to disband the Iraqi military. Many of the sacked officers joined a nascent campaign to expel their expropriators. Added to their ranks were more disaffected Iraqis, victims of the controversial policy of “de-Baathification” that Bremer announced ten days after his touchdown in Baghdad.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 21-22). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The situation in Iraq was downhill from there. The Baath Party was primarily Sunni, and it was the projection of Sunni hegemony that drove the insurgency, and al-Zarqawi.

No minor player in this was Bashar al-Assad, nominal president of Syria and dictator extreme. During the run-up to the U.S. invasion he was prescient enough to give harbor to al-Zarqawi, nominally a deadly enemy. He had the foresight to understand how the chips would fall when the Americans came.

Al-Zarqawi, an acknowledged low-brow dabbler in intrigue, early set the tone. Murderous attacks on Iraqi Shiite leaders and destruction of Shiite shrines.

The al-Askari Mosque bombing accomplished in the international imagination what al-Zarqawi had intended and what most Iraqis had already been living through for three years— a civil war.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 59-60). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Abetting the strife was the installation of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister.

Sunni insurgents paid the Shia back in the same coin. AQI and other Islamist insurgent groups, including ones that would eventually turn on AQI, used every horrific means at their disposal to push the Shia out of Ameriya Fallujah, a Sunni-majority town in western Baghdad that had been choked off and partially starved by the Sadrists. The Iraqi army and police, all answerable to newly installed prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, another Dawa party member, were seen as accomplices to the rampant killings and abductions, which al-Maliki appeared to be tolerating. This was the issue put forth in a classified memo, subsequently leaked, from Stephen Hadley of the White House National Security Council to President Bush in 2006, after Hadley’s visit to Baghdad. “Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas,” the memo read, “intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shiite targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis, and efforts to ensure Shiite majorities in all ministries— when combined with the escalation of [Mahdi Army] killings— all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shiite power in Baghdad.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 60). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The United States made the pursuit and killing of al-Zarqawi a prime objective, and in June of 2006 a strike by an F-16 fighter on a safe house near  Baqubah put an end to his career but not to the reign of terror and not to the movement that would become Daesh.

Came the new American administration and the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, and AQI (al-Qeada in Iraq)—as the movement came to be known—got the breathing room to rebuild and also the moral justification, fed by the oppression of al-Maliki’s administration.

The Arab Spring, beginning with revolt in Tunisia quickly spread to al-Assad’s Syria, with due cause. Here existed a regime in competition for Saddam’s worst days.

Similar protests soon broke out in Damascus, Homs, Baniyas, and then across all of Syria. The response was widespread state violence. Many peaceful demonstrators and activists were shot by soldiers, riot police, Mukhabarat, and pro– al-Assad militiamen. Others were arrested and hauled off to any number of security prisons. As documented by Human Rights Watch, the secret police used a broad array of torture against their captives, including pipe beatings, whippings, electrocutions, acid burns, fingernail extractions, bastinados, and mock executions. Detainees of all genders and ages were also raped. One woman held at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus, one of the most feared Mukhabarat prisons in Syria, told the BBC what happened to a fellow female prisoner. “He inserted a rat in her vagina. She was screaming. Afterwards we saw blood on the floor. He told her: ‘Is this good enough for you?’ They were mocking her. It was obvious she was in agony. We could see her. After that she no longer moved.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 132-133). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Operatives of what was to become Daesh infiltrated into Syria, ostensibly to fight the government. Their ultimate goal was to erase the border between Iraq and Syria and to establish a regional caliphate. Rebel groups unwilling to join the caliphate became Daesh’s immediate enemy, and the government saw them as an ally against the rebels. A strange alliance developed.

We have also seen how the regime chooses to deal with terrorism by infiltration. An early defector from ISIS told CNN’s Arwa Damon in February 2012 he witnessed would-be suicide bombers being told by their battlefield emirs that they were going off to attack regime installations. In reality, they were sent on suicide missions against other rebels. “There were a lot of regime locations we could have taken without sustaining losses of our fighters,” the defector Abu Ammara said, “and we would receive orders to retreat.”

Some of this may owe to ISIS’s financial dependence on selling Syria’s oil back to the regime. As a Western intelligence source told the Daily Telegraph in January 2014, just a month before al-Qaeda formally severed its ties with ISIS, “The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas. We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 198). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Politicians on the presidential stump may want to portray Daesh as the prime enemy of America, democracy, and Christianity. The truth is Daesh’s immediate enemy is that vast body of Islamic factions not aligned with them. There is little to deny that Daesh feeds on American posturing to strengthen its message.

In the mean time, the nation of Syria is emptying out. Were events to run their course unchallenged we could see Syria a wasteland with Daesh fighters praying alone in the dark and Bashar al-Assad and Asma al-Assad hanging from lamp posts. Many more hundreds of thousands of civilians would be dead, more hundreds of thousands fled, many to America.

Aside from humanitarian considerations, it’s a thing neither this country nor any other progressive nation can tolerate. As of this writing, the American military and those of other nations are striking exclusively at Daesh forces in Syria and Iraq. A contingent of American special forces has just announced its presence in Syria, working with rebel groups opposed to Daesh. On the other side, Assad forces have been joined by the Russian military in striking the enemies of Daesh in Syria. The Syria of al-Assad is Russia’s military ally in the region, hosting a Russian naval base on its Mediterranean coast. Shiite Iran next door to Iraq is weighing in on the fight against Sunni Daesh, aiming to become a dominant power in Iraq.

So much for the tactical situation. The authors give additional insight into Daesh’s appeal. In this part of the world, civilians turn their eyes from the atrocities as Daesh provides real governance where none existed before. Official corruption gouges the people routinely here as government employees line their pockets through graft and outright criminal enterprise. Real grievances go without redress by governments whose chief concern is power and self aggrandizement. In contrast, Daesh is not slow to settle local disputes in accordance with prevailing Islamic law. Even prominent Daesh leaders who abuse their position are swiftly dispatched with prejudice.

More important, laws apply to ISIS members and commanders too; ISIS has executed scores of members and commanders for unlawfully profiteering or abusing power. In November 2014, ISIS executed one of its leaders in Deir Ezzor after it accused him of embezzlement and robbery. According to the group, the commander robbed residents after claiming they were apostates. Similar stories are commonly told by members of communities under ISIS control. Imad al-Rawi, from the Iraqi border town of Qa’im, who pledged allegiance to ISIS in August 2014, spoke of ten ISIS members who were executed because they sold tobacco they seized from smugglers. “When they raid shops that sell tobacco, they don’t burn the tobacco,” al-Rawi said. “When they raid a house, they also steal from it. The state executed them when it discovered them. None of those members smoked, they just sold the tobacco.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 227-228). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

In our push to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq, it remains apparent we are not offering, nor have we the ability to, a substitute government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That’s my take, and it doesn’t come from the authors.

About the book. William Faulkner supposedly said of Ernest Hemingway, he “has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” Weiss and Hassan do this routinely for me. Brush off such terms as Salafism. It really is a word you need to know if you are going to discuss the topic of this book. Hemingway would be comfortable. However, there are terms such as revanchism. That would leave Faulkner chuckling and Hemingway running to his bookshelf. But Don Draper-ish? I had to dig for that.

Nobody needs a proof reader than do I. This does not prevent me from performing the task on others. Examples:

Abu Adnan claimed to have network of smugglers on the Syrian-Turkish border who would help potential fighters enter Syria to join ISIS.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 212). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

That sentence could benefit from an additional, though minor, word.

Today, the regime relies overwhelming on the paramilitary assets of Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps— both US-designated terrorist entities— to continue its grueling war of attrition against a legion of domestic and foreign-backed insurgencies. These of course consist of Islamist and jihadist rebels, some of whom are former prisoners of the regime, if not former accomplices of it in Iraq.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 100). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The highlighted word could have been converted to an adverb without loss of clarity.

The authors refer to works by others. These may be worth a look on my part. If so, look for additional reviews along these lines.

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I saw this when it first came out and not again until this week on the occasion the 99th birthday of actor Kirk Douglas. It’s the first full-length live action feature produced in Disney Studios here in the United States. Disney’s first ever live action feature was Treasure Island, made in England in response to that country’s requirement for studios releasing productions there. From 1954 this is 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. , based on the Jules Verne story of the same title. And no, that is not a typo. There is no comma in the title.

I’m getting technical details from Wikipedia. Images are screen shots, some from Turner Classic Movies on the cable, some from commercial DVD releases. Ben Mankiewicz introduced the movie on TCM and explained that Walt Disney originally planned the movie to be yet another feature-length cartoon. After seeing some impressive underwater cinematography in wide-screen, he scrapped the cartoon project and produced the movie himself. Consequences of that decision will be explained later.

I have a copy of the book but have not completed reading it. I have read enough to observe considerable differences. In the book Professor Pierre Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his valet Conseil (Peter Lorre) are hoping to sail back to Europe, but are stranded in New York. In the movie everything happens in the Pacific Ocean, starting from San Francisco, where the two Frenchies are aiming to travel to Saigon, in what was then a French colony. This is the year 1868.

Both the book and the movie start out with news reports of ships at sea encountering a huge monster, with disastrous results. Shipping lines are shutting down, because nobody wants to sail the dangerous oceans. Ned Land (Douglas) is one sailor who does not believe in the monster and is ready and willing to make the voyage. The opening scene shows Ned sparing with two fear mongers trying to discourage shipping out. In the movie Ned is a rough and tumble harpooner, and he scraps with the fear mongers. In the book he’s a Canadian harpooner, but still your classic 19th century action hero.


The two Frenchmen are about to abandon hopes of making it to Saigon, when an envoy from the American government approaches them. They will receive passage, in a round about manner, if they agree to go along on an American warship looking for the monster. In the book the name of the ship is Abraham Lincoln, after the president so recently murdered. In the movie there is a portrait of Lincoln hanging on a bulkhead.


And here is the most entertaining part of the movie and the part I best recall after 60 years. It’s Kirk Douglas strumming his guitar and singing:

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

There was Mermaid Minnie, met her down in Madagaskar
She would kiss me, any time that I would ask her
Then one evening her flame of love blew out
Blow me down and pick me up!
She swapped me for a trout

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

There was Typhoon Tessie, met her on the coast of Java
When we kissed I bubbled up like molten lava
Then she gave me the scare of my young
Blow me down and pick me up!
She was the captain’s wife

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

If you ever need a reason to see this movie, this is it.


I watched my DVD copy from my recliner chair and was several times startled by flash-backs to other films. When the ship’s company observe the destruction of another ship nearby with the loss of all aboard, we see Conseil shaking his head and muttering “Poor devils.” I am sure director Richard Fleischer put that in deliberately to recap Peter Lorre’s famous line from Casablanca.


Anyhow, the Abraham Lincoln gets rammed by the “monster,” and Ned and the two Frenchies get dumped overboard. Alone and adrift in the ocean they encounter the monster, which turns out to be a submersible vessel of unusual construction. They climb aboard and explore the inside of the apparently deserted boat.

Peering through a glass view port the intruders learn why nobody is aboard. The crew is holding an underwater service for shipmates killed in the encounter with the American warship. And here we can see what got Disney so excited that he switched to live action for the movie. My view is the underwater sequences turned out to be murky and far below acceptable quality. These scenes are a big part of what gets this production review in the Bad Movie Wednesday slot.


Before our heroes can escape the rogue U-boat, the crew returns and takes them prisoner. They meet Captain Nemo (James Mason), known by no other name. And here we get to the theme of both the book and the movie. Nemo is a scientific and military genius with a hard on for the world. He has constructed this amazing U-boat and uses it go sail around and attack vessels he considers the backbone of 19th century evil. The U-boat is named Nautilus, which may not be coincidentally the name of the first nuclear-powered submarine, commissioned the year the movie came out.


Nemo takes Professor Aronnax ashore on an island where slave labor is mining nitrates to be used in making explosives. When a ship leaves the island with its cargo, the Nautilus rams and sinks it, killing all aboard.


This upsets the three captives, of which Ned is desirous of escape. Allowed shore leave on an island, Ned plots his escape, but is soon running for his life from head hunters.


That scene was the occasion of another of my movie flash-backs.


Another was this when the Nautilus encounters a giant squid, and Nemo gives personal combat.


I could not help thinking of Gregory Peck as Ahab. Only Nemo survives, whereas Ahab does not.


Meanwhile, Ned and Conseil have been dropping bottles overboard with messages detailing the location of the Nautilus’ secret base. When Nemo returns the boat to the island, warships and soldiers are waiting. Nemo sets a delayed fuse to detonate the island and rushes to escape on the Nautilus. He is mortally wounded and begins to execute plans to take his boat down to crush depth.

The three captives aboard are having none of that. They overpower the crew and escape in Nautilus’s launch from which they watch as the island explodes. Then we see the Nautilus settle by the stern and slip beneath the surface.


Everybody watching in 1954 just knew this was a nuclear-powered submarine that Jules Verne had imagined 90 years ahead of its time. The island explodes with the power of an atomic bomb, but not in the same manner. There is no blinding flash and spherical fireball characteristic of an a-bomb explosion.

When the movie came out I wondered at the title. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea? No part of the sea is that deep. For readers’ education a league is about three miles, about an hour’s stroll. Reading the book we find the title comes from the captain’s intention to sail a total of 20,000 leagues while under water. The movie doesn’t make it that far. Shortly before the Nautilus completes its last voyage Captain Nemo announces they have so far sailed 10,000 leagues. We go cheated out of the other 10,000 leagues.

I’m going to finish reading the book and find out whether the three prisoners, now adrift in the Nautilus’ launch, ever make it back to civilization. I hope to get that done and to post a review before the year is out.

Keep reading.